Difference between a cashier's check and money order?

Exactly what is the difference between a money order and a cashier’s check? They are both a basic thrid party guarantee by some established entity to honor a check so the recipient doesn’t have to worry about getting paid, but why do two forms of this type of payment form exist?

From what I understand, the money order has an upper limit on it as well ($1000 I think) whereas I don’t believe you have this for cashier’s checks. And why do many banks charge more for a cashier’s check vs. a money order?

Extreme WAG here, but perhaps the “cashier’s check” dates from pre-money order days…

Perhaps the difference is a cashier’s check isn’t drawn from your account until it is cleared, whereas a money order is paid for in full at the time of issuance?

Again, just WAG’s, but a good question!

My WAG would be that a money order can be issued by any business (such as the post office), whereas a cashier’s check can only be issued by a federally insured financial institution (that is, a bank.)

Which ties into the whole “upper limit” thing. The post office has a ceiling of $700 on money orders – banks may have a little more, but not much. On the other hand, I’ve seen cashier’s checks in the tens of millions.

Hopefully, someone who works in the finance industry will come along and answer this… (that’s what I love about this place, no matter how obscure the question is, eventually somebody will come along and say, “I am the regional sales coordinator for the country’s third largest distributor of bunk and trundle beds, and I can definitely say the answer is…”)


A Webster dictionary, a very handy tool:

Main Entry:money order Function:noun Date:1802 : an order issued by a post office, bank, or telegraph office for payment of a specified sum of money usually at any branch of the organization.

Main Entry:cashier’s check
Function:noun Date:1867: a check drawn by a bank on its own funds and signed by the cashier

Here are the differences, some of which have been covered:

money order: Issue amount limited in value, usually $1000 at banks and less at other issuers.
official check: unlimited issue amount.

money order: Payee and remitter information usually filled out by the purchaser at time of issue or later. Date and amount completed by issuer.
official check: All information must be completed by the issuer (bank) at time of issue. No blank checks here.

money order: Stop payments allowed for variety of reasons, ususally without posting a surety bond.
official check: Stop payment only allowed if check is lost, stolen or destroyed. Almost always requires a 3rd party surety bond and affadavit of loss before re-issue.

money order: If issuer goes out of business before item is negotiated, you’re generally SOL.
official check: Protected by FDIC/FSLIC.

money order: More commonly forged/altered than official checks.

While both become the obligation of a 3rd party issuer, cashiers checks are more highly regulated than money orders. Both are a highly safe method of payment, but a cashiers check is the pinnacle of security.

In this day and age it may not be even remotely possible, but you need a checking account before you can get a certified check. It is a check drawn on your account, but certified by the bank that you have the funds and it will honor it.

Since a cashier’s check seems to mean guaranteed payment, why do many businesses refuse to accept them?

I mixed up cashier’s check and certified check. Sorry. I don’t know where my head is today.